The Analysis Paralysis Effect: Think Your Way Out

Analysis Paralysis is the art of overthinking a choice to the point where no decision gets made. According to American psychologist Herbert Simon, we make decisions in two kinds of ways. We either;

  • Satisfice; which people select the first option that meets their needs (or addresses the most of their needs)

OR

  • Maximise; which people never settle for the available solution, but keep looking for other better alternatives.

Of the two groups, the maximisers are those that prolong decision making in the hope of a better alternative, which is often the type that suffers from analysis paralysis. Maximisers can often use this as a guard against failure. Over-analysing is used in fear of making the wrong choice

We suffer from Analysis Paralysis when;

1) We are overwhelmed by our options

2) We overcomplicate the decision when it’s supposed to be easy

3) We are fearful of making the wrong move, in which we stall and make the wrong decision

4) We feel obliged to make the ‘perfect’ or ‘best’ choice, delaying any decision until further research is done

5 Ways To Overcome Analysis Paralysis

  • Prioritise Our Decisions. This means to differentiate between the decisions that require immediate attention and those that we can act on later. It’s important to ask how important those decisions are and what could go wrong if that decision was made now
  • Determine Goals for Each Decision. Sometimes our inability to make decisions isn’t because of fear of failure, but simply because we don’t know why we need to make a choice. Defining a goal from a decision will make it easier to decide.
  • Forget Perfection. Most of the decisions we make are not life-altering, so we don’t need to demand perfection. Picking a decision that is ‘good enough’ can be the best one to make. Every decision has it’s downsides, but the good enough decisions will always keep you moving forward rather than not making any at all.
  • Get a Trusted Opinion. Remember you don’t have to make decisions on your own. Find someone you trust and get their honest opinion. You don’t need to act on their opinion, but you may use it in your decision making.
  • Set a Time Limit. Heard of Parkinsons’ law? The Parkinsons Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Breaking this down, it simply means your work takes as long as you allow it to take. Set yourself a time limit on your decisions, otherwise, you may not make them at all.

Extinct By Instinct

Remember how we make decisions in two types of ways, Maximise and Satisfice? Analysis Paralysis is based more on the Maximise type decision-makers. Extinct by Instinct is on the other end of the Analysis Paralysis spectrum, where we make decisions based on hasty judgment or a gut reaction. Rather than taking a long time and over-analysing, we make them quickly and often on emotion. This is used in management and business but can be applied in life as well. I’ve seen myself on this spectrum several times. I have made some decisions where I’ve ignored the opinions of people I trusted. I once made a gut instinct to move in with a partner after dating for only a few months. After risking friendships and the time I invest in myself, 6 months later we broke up and I had to re-assess how I made decisions. When it comes to your productivity and life balance, decision fatigue has a big effect on how you make decisions, no matter how slow or quick they are made.

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A writer, reader and sports lover. A Bachelor of Business graduate. I write about productivity, habits and writing creativity. www.blakedevos.com

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